I could feel the rough uneven stone rubbing the skin from my bones. My eyes were fixed on my hands, bound and chained. What caught my attention though was a numb pain radiating from my left hand. I turned it over and gasped at the sight. A green cut exploded as the door opened, revealing a feminine silhouette followed by a robed and hooded one. Four armoured guards around me sheathed swords I hadn’t noticed. I thought about controlling my breathing as I watched the figures stalk around me, unwilling to make eye contact. One of them bent down and left her lips a hand’s width from my ear.
“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now-” her words were woven together with a thick accent, “The conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead, except for you.” I looked at the ground and rolled my lips into my mouth to wet them. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t remember what happened. Did I know her? She reached for my hand and held it in front of my face, “Explain this,” she hissed, and the green line burst with energy in response.
“I…I can’t,” my voice shook, and the words barely floated through the air.
“What do you mean you can’t?”
“I don’t know what that is, or how it got there.”
“You’re lying,” she grabbed me in her rage. The robed figure made her presence known by pushing the interrogator off me.
“We need her Cassandra,” the lilting voice said. I didn’t move my eyes from the danger. No one moved.
“I don’t understand,” I stated carefully.
“Do you remember what happened? How this began?” asked the robed woman, Orlesian by her now apparent accent.
“I… running-I remember running. Things were chasing me, and then, a woman?” my pitch turned up at the end, but I didn’t know who my question was aimed at.
“A woman?” the Orlesian sounded surprised now.
I nodded slightly, “She reached out to me, but then…” I sighed, unable to organize my thoughts.
“Go to the forward camp, Leliana,” the warrior, Cassandra, commanded, calmer now, “I will take her to the rift.”
I was staring at my hand again as she crouched next to me and took the shackles off. I examined her face closer now that she wasn’t glaring at me. She had a prominent scar on her cheek.
“What did happen?” I found myself questioning.
She pulled me up by my elbow, “It will be easier to show you.”
I followed her out the door. The light was much brighter than that of the dim room I was in, and the wind added a fierce bite to the cold of a Ferelden winter. A green light flashed from above, like the one on my hand, but bigger; I blocked the intrusive light from my adjusting eyes.
“We call it ‘the Breach.’ It’s a massive rift to the world of demons which grows larger with each passing hour,” Cassandra stared into the sky and I couldn’t help doing the same, “It’s not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the conclave.” I noted a strange, vague, beauty in the pulsing scar, and the twin of it on my hand, however unsettling it was.
“An explosion can do that?” Cassandra turned now to face my voice,
“This one did,” her tone was stern and slightly accusing, “Unless we act, the Breach may grow until it swallows the world.” An explosion interrupted our conversation, green lightning snaked through the snow and mountains to an unseen ground. I had no power to suppress the scream that pressed me into the ground with my hand searing through the icy chill. I pulled it into my chest, breathing heavily as it subsided. Cassandra kneeled in front of me,
“Each time the Breach expands, your mark spreads… and it is killing you. It may be the key to stopping this, but there isn’t much time.”
“You still think I did this? To myself?”
“Not intentionally, something clearly went wrong.” I couldn’t help the snort that escaped.
“Clearly,” I mocked, perhaps not the best choice given her glare, “And if I’m not responsible?”
“Someone is-,” her eyebrows pointed downwards, “and you are our only suspect. You wish to prove your innocence? This is the only way.”
I was not much of a fighter, my arms were small enough to wrap my fingers around, my legs the same. Surely, she could tell that I was no swordsman, or that I hardly had the build to be an archer.
“I understand,” I said regardless, earning a slight nod from the warrior in front of me,
“I’ll do what I can, whatever I can. Can’t promise it will be much though.” Her features seemed softer already, though her brash grip and brute force would beg to differ as she pulled me back to my feet. Her hand stayed on my back and urged me forward through their makeshift camp. People glared at me and muttered aside to each other.
“They have decided your guilt, they need it,” She pushed me again as I locked eyes with a young man in a leather hat, “The people of Haven mourn our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, head of the Chantry. The Conclave was hers.” We headed from the camp on a muddy path, dusted with snow, “It was a chance for peace between mages and Templars.” I spied forward to a large wooden door outside of the small town known as Haven, “She brought their leaders together. Now, they are dead. We lash out like the sky. But we must think beyond ourselves. As she did. Until the Breach is sealed.” We walked through the doors, opened by a young soldier, onto a bridge. I gazed over the walls into the valley below us, and the fires of the aftermath. Cassandra’s hand raised to stop my advance across the bridge. She pulled out a small utility knife and cut the ropes binding my hands together.
“There will be a trial. I can promise no more.”
“Great,” I replied, rubbing my wrists where the rope irritated them, “A perfectly fair trial, where everyone has decided my guilt.”
Her lips pursed, “Come. It is not far.”
“Just where exactly are you taking me?” She didn’t reply to this and instead said,
“Your mark must be tested on something smaller than the Breach.”
I laughed, “Always a good idea to play with magic we don’t understand, nothing bad has ever come of it.” My words were to myself, but they still warranted a blazing leer.
I treaded forward hesitantly, brushing past a man speaking to a group of people
“Oh, Creator, see me kneel,” he pleaded “for I walk only where you bid me.” Cassandra’s thumb in my back urged me forward again, “stand only in places you have blessed…” and I couldn’t hear the rest of his benediction. My bare feet slapped against the cold stone, chilling me further in contrast with the heat of my hand. The green bolts reached barely to the heel of my palm, yet my entire arm felt their presence.
“Open the gate!” Cassandra shouted to someone hidden in the watchtower, “We are heading into the valley.” A continuation of the dirt path from before led into the snowy valley, marred by the barricades of wood and fire. We passed duos of soldiers protected by expedient bulwarks. As we passed a burning wagon a shock from the Breach sent me toppling to the ground again.
Cassandra pulled my bent body off the ground. “The pulses are coming faster now.” A single clap on the shoulder was the only comfort I received from her. “The larger the Breach grows, the more rifts appear, the more demons we face.”
I cleared my throat of the cold. “How did I survive the blast?”
“They said you… stepped out of a rift, then fell unconscious. They say a woman was in the rift behind you. No one knows who she was. Everything farther in the valley was laid waste, including the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I suppose you’ll see soon enough,” she finished as we came to another bridge, like the first one, but not hidden behind big wooden doors, and there were no civilians on it.
We stepped onto the bridge; the cold stone was worse than the actual snow on my bare feet. I looked towards the end of the valley where we had come from. The snow blocked much of my vision, but I could make out the shape of the first bridge we had been on.
A man yelled and I turned in time to see a large green ball concuss with the bridge. Rock was strewn into the sky as I tumbled with the crumbling bridge. I could see nothing but the inside of my eyelids as I rolled down the rocky avalanche. My hand flung out to stop myself against the thick ice. I panted heavily and blessed whatever power left the glassy surface beneath me intact. Following my frosty breath upward revealed another sphere of green fire falling to the frozen river. The explosion shattered on the ice, some of it breaking, and silhouetted crystals burst up with the shape of a tall monster, writhing as it spawned on the ice.
“Stay behind me!” Cassandra shouted through the cold. She rushed forward with a sword and shield. I simply nodded and retreated. A green glow oozed through the ice, approaching nearer to me than I would have liked. I jumped sideways as green crystals shot up around another demon. I crouched behind a crate that had been conveniently left and tried to hide. Cassandra already blamed me for whatever happened, if she found out I was a mage, she would kill me. Of course, with these demons, she might appreciate some help.
I was left to no more consideration when the crate was set upon by the tall beast. On pure instinct, I shot a ball of frost, icy like the wind that it travelled through. It hit the behemoth in the shoulder and sent it screeching towards Cassandra. There was a wooden pole, carved carefully, so I grab it to use as a conduit for my magic. Standing upright again I could chase the demon with another ice ball, then fire, then fire and ice. It felt like aeons since I had been free to cast. My aim was precise and hit only the attackers; never Cassandra.
I stopped my barrage upon seeing Cassandra plunge her sword into the head of our final opponent.
“It’s over,” I stated simply.
But Cassandra glared at me, approaching with her sword aimed to my chest, “Drop your weapon.”
I stared back at her blankly. If I wanted to kill her-
“Now,” she added harshly.
“Alright,” I threw it to the ground and raised my hand submissively, “I don’t need it anyway.”
Cassandra eyed me warily, maybe I shouldn’t have added the last part. Then she sighed and turned her back on me.
I breathed out as she stalks away, but she stopped, and faced me again, “I should remember you agreed to come willingly.”
“Where are all your soldiers?”
“At the forward camp or fighting. We are on our own, for now.”
The ice beneath my toes revealed an aqua-coloured flow with jagged white scars tracking the scratches from the avalanche of the bridge. I could, again, only marvel at the beauty beneath me, despite the assault that rained down. Cassandra beckoned me to follow up an icy ramp and down a long, frozen path of turquoise beauty. We deviated to a real path when the frozen one was overtaken by a white tree, felled in the chaos.
“There! Watch out!” Cassandra ran ahead of me, over the hump of snow onto a cliff of icicles. She jumped off easily and engaged the demons below in combat. I opted for the safer method of remaining above the fight and once again watching, scared to meet her wrath should I cast a single spell.
“If we flank them, we may gain the advantage.” She must have been talking to herself because I had been instructed specifically against using magic and thus still stood on the overhang.
When they lay dead, Cassandra glared at me as I carefully slid down the bank. She would have been pleased to know I felt my previous fall from the bridge in my rib cage and sore muscles. We traversed the stage and stopped before a staircase of rocks. Another demon was shifting among them, as though it were swimming through the air.
“Upon the hill! It attacks from a distance! Shoot it with your magic!” Cassandra bellowed. I looked up to a wispy humanoid demon. All it took was a well-aimed fireball.
“Look out!” the demon Cassandra had been fighting lunged towards me, its claws reached out. I jumped back and Cassandra rushed it, catching its back with her blade. The claws made burning contact with my arm as I raised it in defence. I gasped in pain and backed away from Cassandra and the demon, clutching my arm to my chest. She made quick work of the weakened demon then stood in front of me again.
“Here,” she handed me a small flask. I stared questioningly up at her. Like I would ever drink something this crazy stranger gave me.
“It’s a potion,” she clarified.
That was what I was worried about, but I nodded and took a sip from it anyway. It held the bitter taste of elfroot. I cringed but my arm felt fine.
She nodded, again turning to head up the stone stairs of the hill, “Maybe I was wrong to dismiss your magic so quickly. It would be… unfair to leave you defenceless.” I couldn’t help the smile that pulled at my mouth now or the word that escaped,
But she only grunted and turned away.
We continued along the river, green bursts spawning demons to replace the ones we, or more accurately Cassandra, felled.
“They’re falling from the Breach!” I yelled and another wispy green demon and swimming-demon thingy came towards us. I was careful this time to observe the distance between myself and all demons.
“What are those?” I panted when they lay slain.
“The green ones are wraiths,” Cassandra answered, “The tall dark ones are shades.” I nodded, caught my breath, and committed the names to memory.
A few demons later we approached another staircase with two fires atop stone pillars on either side. Cassandra stomped up, “We’re getting close to the rift,’” she said, “You can hear the fighting.”
“You’ll see soon,” was her answer, “We must help them.”
At the top of the incline was a flat paved surface, going right led across a broken bridge, left was blocked by stone, and forward led off a short wall. Cassandra headed straight, so I followed, crouching to jump off the wall. A group of people were fighting demons which were continuously reproduced by a floating green crystal.
Cassandra rushed forward, lunging this way and that, more power than grace. I was glad of those that were already there however, I didn’t think we could handle that many demons. I backed behind the broken walls to gain a range for my attacks and the demons largely left me alone for the duration.
“Come!” Cassandra yelled to me in between the waves of demons.
“Quickly, before more come through,” shouted a bald elf. He grabbed my hand and turned my palm to face the green crystals. A stream of green light connected my marked hand to the crystals. My eyes went wide as the stream danced on my skin and burned my nerves. I jerked my hand away at a sudden burst of pain, and the crystal exploded. I massaged my hand and stared into the air where the large green crystal had been.
“What did you do?” My voice cracked slightly, as the pain slowly dissipated from my hand.
“I did nothing,” the bald elf replied, “The credit is yours.”
“You mean this?” I asked of the mark incredulously.
“Whatever magic that opened the Breach in the sky also put that mark upon your hand.” He explained, “I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach’s wake- and it seems I was correct.” I examined the green slit on my hand.
“Meaning it could also close the Breach itself,” Cassandra added hopefully.
“Possibly,” he nodded at her, folding his hands in front of him, “It seems you hold the key to our salvation.”
“Good to know!” a dwarf chimed in. He had a crossbow on his back and a bald chin uncharacteristic for dwarves, “Here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever. Varric Tethras,” he introduced, walking towards me, “Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tagalong.” He winked at Cassandra, who scowled in return.
“That’s a nice, er, crossbow you have there,” I was unsure of what else to say, but he seemed happy to talk about his weapon.
“Ahh, isn’t she? Bianca and I have been through a lot together.”
I laughed a little, “You named your crossbow Bianca?”
“Of course, and she’ll be a great company in the valley.”
“Absolutely not,” Cassandra interjected. She huffed, “Your help is appreciated, Varric, but- “
“Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker?” he interrupted, “Your soldiers aren’t in control anymore. You need me.” She grunted in disgust.
“My name is Solas if there are to be introductions. I am pleased to see you still live.” The bald elf smiled at me.
I smiled back.
“And your name?” He questioned.
My name? I’ve never had a name, have I?
“Um,” I don’t want to raise suspicion, but what did he want me to say?
Irian? Who was Irian? Why was that the name I thought of? Why did I hate it so much?
Solas nodded at me, he didn’t seem to care that I paused for so long.
“He means, ‘I kept that mark from killing you while you slept.’” The dwarf winked again, also seemingly unaffected by my hesitant response.
“Thank you then.”
“Cassandra, you should know: the magic involved here is unlike any I have seen,” Solas explained, “Your prisoner is a mage, but I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power.”
“Understood,” she replied, “We must get to the forward camp quickly.”
“Well,” Varric started, “Bianca’s excited.”
“This way,” Cassandra motioned, “Down the bank, the road ahead is blocked.”
I clamber over a wooden fence and a cloud of snow swirled around my feet as they hit the ground. The others seemed to possess more grace than me.
“We must move quickly,” Solas repeats.
We progressed down a dark path in the shadow of the mountain and with the falling snow blocked by the sheer cliff, my vision was finally clear. The river remained ever loyal to our side, eventually leading out of the shadow of the mountain. It was a rather tranquil scene, except for the cries and sounds of war overwhelming the green-tinged horribleness.
“Demons ahead,” Solas warned.
“Glad you brought me now, Seeker?” Varric yelled.
I readied a fire in my palm, Varric loaded his crossbow, and Solas cast a barrier around the group, barely catching Cassandra as she charged at the four demons: two wraiths and two shades. Solas was a mage, an ice mage by the looks of it. He twirled his staff and suddenly the demon would be frozen. I tried not to hit his frozen targets with my fireballs, but they did shatter rather pleasingly. Varric’s style involved getting really close to shoot and then rushing away, only to do the same thing. Every now and then I hit on a wraith, but mostly it was the other three doing damage.
Once cleared, Cassandra led us up another staircase on the other side of the lake we had been fighting on.
“So,” Varric began, “Are you innocent?”
“I don’t remember what happened,” I replied, slowing down slightly.
“That’ll get you every time. Should have spun a story.”
“That’s what you would have done,” Cassandra accused.
“It’s more believable and less prone to result in premature execution,” he defended.
I stopped completely to look at him, “Do you think they’re going to execute me?” He shrugged nonchalantly and pushed ahead. Nervously, I followed again.
We traced the path through a thin forest, and several demon encounters allowed me to observe their fighting styles more closely.
“I hope Leliana made it through all this,” Cassandra mused.
“She’s resourceful, Seeker.”
“We will see for ourselves at the forward camp, we are almost there,” Solas said from behind me.
I was breathing heavily by the time we came to the top of another portion of the mountain. My face was prickling with icy needles and my feet were more than just frost nipped. I usually had wraps around my hands and feet, but they must have looked incredibly dangerous to my captors. I’d give anything for the warmth they supplied though- what little it was.
A green glow emanated from the hill; it must have been another crystal structure floating in the air. The demons spilt down the hill, clawing and shooting at us. I pushed through them and left the other three to fight. The rift was in front of a brick structure which luckily meant it was fully accessible. I held my hand up to it and felt the painful thrumming of energy as it passed between my hand and the crystal. The crystal shattered when I pulled my hand away, but the rift remained. I twisted around to see the demons had been blown into a stupor by the explosion. Cassandra pounced on them and acted with haste to dispatch of them.
Once the other three had done the hard work of killing the demons, I lifted my hand to the rift and allowed the same energy to pulse on my skin before I yanked it away and the rift collapsed.
“The rift is gone! Open the gates!” Cassandra shouted.
“Right away,” Came the response.
Two heavy doors opened to another bridge, this one strewn with crates and people, like the first. So far, I had great experiences associated with bridges.
“Ah, here they come.” A man dressed in chantry robes nodded as we approached. The robed woman from my interrogation stood next to him and crossed her arms defensively.
“You made it,” she said with relief only aimed toward Cassandra, “Chancellor Roderick, this is-”
“I know who she is. As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take this criminal to Val Royeaux to face execution.”
I shied away from the man and opted to hide behind Cassandra because her views on my execution seemed to have at least softened in my favour.
Cassandra tossed her arms in disbelief, “Order me? You are a glorified clerk, a bureaucrat!”
“And you are a thug, but a thug who supposedly serves the Chantry!” He spit.
“We serve the Most Holy, Chancellor, as you well know.” Leliana vocalized.
“Justinia is dead! We must elect a replacement and obey her orders on the matter!” the Chancellor exclaimed.
“I don’t suppose you realize I am right here?” I joined, rather amused by this fight.
“You shouldn’t even be here!” He retorted, then sighed, “Call a retreat, Seeker. Our position here is hopeless.”
“We can stop this before it’s too late.” She was optimistic while all I could think about was my body hanged by the neck in Val Royeaux. A most Orlesian death. Fereldans would probably feed me to dogs.
“How? You won’t survive long enough to reach the temple, even with all your soldiers,” the Chancellor glared at me behind Cassandra.
“We must get to the Temple, it’s the quickest route.”
“But not the safest,” Leliana proclaimed, “Our forces can charge as a distraction while we go through the mountains.” She pointed to a peak, obscured by the howling winds and snow.
“We lost contact with an entire squad on that path. It’s too risky,” Cassandra reasoned.
Chancellor Roderick looked beyond worried, “Listen to me. Abandon this now before more lives are lost!”
A green glow shook the bridge and my hand pulsed in time with the Breach, illuminating my pained face as I gazed at it. Cassandra swivelled to look at me, “How do you think we should proceed?”
I gaped at her, “Now you’re asking me what I think?”
“You have the mark,” Solas remarked.
“And you are the one we must keep alive. Since we cannot agree on our own…” she insinuated.
I was pleased to see that she was now anti-execution on my part, but I had no idea what was going on here. At least I might not have to be executed in an unknown city, especially since I would probably die up here in unknown territory. Whether from cold, demons, or even fear, which seemed like a plausible contender, something was surely going to take me. My options seemed limited right now. Did it matter what I pick? Which would kill me faster? Didn’t the Orlesian say they had lost soldiers on the mountain path? I wondered what from…
“Use the mountain path.”
Maybe that was a bad decision. They wouldn’t actually listen to me, would they?
“Leliana, bring everyone left in the valley. Everyone,” Cassandra instructed before heading out the big doors behind the Chancellor.
“On your head be the consequences, Seeker.” He said. I couldn’t see her face, but her body betrayed no reaction to his words. I followed quietly.
We crunched through an endless supply of snow and climb splintery ladders to wooden decks. My feet were too numb to be bothered by the sharp splinters that pierce my skin and my blood was too cold to flow properly. The conversation too seemed too cold to flow. Only for a moment did anyone talk, and it was always about the pass we had taken or the worries about what had detained the soldiers. It ended in a foreboding “we shall see soon enough.” This was a horrible idea.
The tunnel through the mountain was an old mining tunnel according to Cassandra. It provided us shelter from the wind but traded it for demons. A wraith inside glowed green as we approached and other demons shuttled toward us.
The tunnels were warm since the heat from the torches lighting it was trapped inside and the walls shielded all but a draft of wind passing through. The stone echoed our footsteps; Cassandra’s held the precision of a soldier, mine the agility of a mage. Frozen waterfalls of ice reflected the light from the torches. Every angle revealed different colours shimmering like opal. Past more demons, the floor was covered in ice. Varric chuckled as I slipped on it and made a joking comment about elves and agility. I didn’t get it. Cassandra grunted again.
We passed through an archway and found four bodies lying in the cold.
“Guess we found the soldiers,” Varric muttered, his laughter had disappeared into the wind.
“That cannot be all of them,” Cassandra commented.
“So, the others could be holed up ahead?” He sounded hopeful almost.
“Our priority must be the Breach,” Solas insisted, “Unless we seal it soon, no one is safe.”
“I’m leaving that to the girl with the glowing hand,” Varric turned back to look at me as he said this and winked. I glanced back at my hand. Even the burning of the mark was better than the needles in my feet, though I would prefer neither.
A path outside the temple led downwards to another rift.
“Lady Cassandra!” A soldier shouted.
“Lieutenant! You’re alive!”
A second wave of demons assaulted our tired ranks perfectly on cue.
“Terrors!” Someone shouted. I saw a lanky demon digging into the ground. It dove into its hole and popped up right beneath me, forcing me to the ground and clawing at me. Solas shot it off me and I scrambled to my feet to move away. I raised my hand to the rift and stifled the cry of pain as it exploded.
“Sealed, as before,” Solas observed, “You are becoming quite proficient at this.”
“Let’s hope it works on the big one,” Varric muttered as he strode by.
Cassandra was helping a soldier to her feet.
“Thank the Maker you finally arrived, Lady Cassandra. I don’t think we could have held out much longer.”
“Thank our prisoner, Lieutenant. She insisted that we come this way.” I tried to look a little less frozen and a little more heroic to mirror the approval Cassandra had given me. It might have worked.
“The prisoner? Then you…?”
I smiled as much as my frozen muscles would let me, “It was worth saving you if we could.”
“Then you have my sincere gratitude,” the officer replied and pounded a hand across her chest int salute to me. I didn’t know what else to do but shiver.
“The way into the valley behind us is clear for the moment,” Cassandra suggested, “Go, while you still can.”
“At once,” The woman nodded, “Quickly, let’s move.”
“The path ahead appears to be clear of demons as well,” Solas noted.
“Let’s hurry before that changes,” Cassandra headed onto the path again, leaving us to follow, “That’s the way to the Temple, down the ladder.”
Climbing down the ladders seemed easy for Varric, Solas, and Cassandra. To me, it felt like torture. Every muscle screamed in pain and the slivers reappeared in my feet. Wind burned my face and the cold seemed to seep through my clothes to my core. I wanted nothing more than to collapse next to a warm fire. Thinking this, I lit small fires in my hands to regain some warmth, but the snow whisked it away as soon as I conjure it.
Varric’s shirt wasn’t even buttoned all the way, leaving his chest exposed to the harsh snow; yet he still could withstand the freezing temperature better than me. Solas seemed to be lacking in footwear as well, but he didn’t betray the cold he must have felt. Cassandra was basically made of stone I concluded. There was no other explanation for her.
A long path drew my eye to tall black walls, with a slight tint of green the same shade as that from the sky and my hand. The jagged spires provided another much-welcomed respite from the wind.
“The Temple of Sacred Ashes,” Solas marvelled. It looked slightly burnt to me and slightly defiled but the spires were cool.
“What’s left of it,” Varric added. It did blow up after all.
Cassandra pointed to it, “That is where you walked out of the Fade and our soldiers found you.”
Charred bodies crouched from an unseen danger; their arms were frozen above their heads. Little green fires illuminated them and clashed with the orange radiance of fire. The wind whistled through holes in the black barriers and carried the rumbling bursts of the Breach. I felt queasy and wanted to run despite my lethargic state. A torn banner blew next to a crumbled opening into the temple and I had to step over skeletons to enter.
Inside was a charred demon body and more skeletons with their mouths open in a silent scream. A swirling vortex of green light was in the middle of a large basin with a giant rift crystal crackling in the centre of it. Above that still, laid the hole in the sky.
“The Breach is a long way up,” Varric whispered. I stood in awe of the magnificence of the doomsday scene. A morbid beauty floated in front of me, and I was captivated by its power.
“You’re here,” said a familiar Orlesian accent, “Thank the Maker.”
Cassandra turned and gestured to her left, “Leliana, have your men take up positions around the temple.” She walked in front of my view of the rift, “This is your chance to end this. Are you ready?”
She had blood spattered across her chest plate.
“I’ll try, but I don’t know if I can reach that, much less close it.”
“No,” Solas’ voice is stern, “This rift was the first, and it is the key. Seal it, and perhaps we seal the Breach.”
“Then let’s find a way down,” Cassandra decided, “And be careful.” She aimed that part at me.
I headed to my right and climbed a small set of stairs.
“Now is the hour of our victory,” Boomed a hidden voice, “Bring forth the sacrifice.”
The heavy sound reverberated off the black spires around us and thumped in time to my heart. I felt every syllable pounding in my core.
“What are we hearing?” Cassandra quaked.
“At a guess: the person who created the Breach,” Solas responded.
We climbed over piles of rubble to a small alcove in the mountains of stone. Red crystals grew out of the niche, adding to the green and orange light already present.
“You know this stuff is red lyrium, Seeker,” Varric’s voice sounded worried.
“I see it Varric-”
“But what’s it doing here?”
“Magic could have drawn on lyrium beneath the temple, corrupted it,” Solas supplied.
Varric huffed, “It’s evil. Whatever you do, don’t touch it.”
A small pain needled my shoulder as we passed it. I cringed and massaged it, stupid bridge.
Solas slowed to walk by my side, “What pains you?”
“I- nothing. It’s just from all the fighting. I must have hit it harder than I thought.”
He nodded, eyeing me carefully before returning to his position next to Varric.
“Keep the sacrifice still,” Came the deep voice.
“Someone! Help me!” a woman’s voice echoed through the temple ruins.
“That is Divine Justinia’s voice!” Cassandra commented incredulously.
We continued our circular path around the walls of black, each spiral bringing us closer to the large basin we had seen before. More lyrium littered the path we travelled towards the Breach, Varric glanced at it warily but said nothing more on the subject. I was sure to give it a wide range as I passed by.
We jumped down a short wall. The movement jostled my now throbbing shoulder. I ignored it and inched closer to the rift. My hand exploded with light as I came nearer.
“Someone! Help me!” reiterated the female voice.
“What’s going on here?” Came a third voice- my voice! I glanced between my mark and the rift. I hadn’t said anything.
“That was your voice,” Cassandra pondered, “Most Holy called out to you. But-” she was interrupted by a burst of magic from the rift. A lash of white light revealed a shadowy figure with red eyes, and a woman in chantry robes, both were suspended in mid-air, though the woman looked to be held in red circles of light.
“What’s going on here,” said an apparition of me running into the vision.
“Run while you can! Warn them!” the woman shouted to me. Why was I even there? Why couldn’t I remember?
“What are you doing?” roared the baritone of the shadow, “Kill her, now!”
Another flash of light and the wisps disappeared.
“You were there,” Cassandra accused, “Who attacked? And the Divine, is she…? Was this vision true? What are we seeing?”
“I don’t remember!”
Solas walked closer to the rift, “Echoes of what happened here. The Fade bleeds into this place. This rift is not sealed, but it is closed… albeit temporarily. I believe that with the mark, the rift can be opened, and then sealed properly and safely. However, opening the rift will likely attract attention from the other side.”
“That means demons,” Cassandra commanded, “Stand ready!”
Several soldiers drew their swords, archers knocked arrows, and the three behind prodded me forward and prepares themselves for whatever was about to happen. I looked back to Cassandra, hoping she would tell me not to open the rift again. Should we really be opening this thing? She nodded, however, urging me to open it. I swallowed hard, before raising my hand to the rift.
“Solas, what kind of demons will this attract?” He didn’t answer. Maybe he didn’t hear me.
The beam of light pulled me toward the rift a bit. I stumbled before raising my hand again, creating a stronger connection to it. It exploded and sent me floundering backwards with force.
A green beam shot perpendicular to me and from it came a large demon. It stood at least three times the size of me and had great horns protruding from its head. Long spikes sprouted from its elbows like armour and it roared while staring at me with its multiple eyes.
“Now,” urged the bloodstained Cassandra.
I stood frozen to my spot though and gazed at the blue lightning crackling around its body. I knew what kind of demon this was. I’d seen it in paintings before: a pride demon. I had heard tales about the grey beings tearing men to shreds and cracking their lightning whip across the backs of unsuspecting enemies. They were the corrupted spirit of wisdom.
Archers unleashed their arrows in a storm, angering the great beast to strike at us.
I catapulted out of the way and tried to gain a position from which to flank him.
Solas shot strings of frost at the demon, I tried to shoot fire but all I could manage was a weak spark.
“We must strip its defences!” Cassandra suggested as she runs by me, “Wear it down!”
I backed up and took a breath in as deeply as I could. The cold stung my throat and my hand pulsed in pain. I looked up at the crystal. If I could just get close enough maybe I could disrupt it as I had back in the valley.
The familiar beam of light connected my hand to the rift and the crystal exploded as I pulled away.
The demon seemed to be affected by the interference, so I tried conjuring an ice ball. It was weak and small and appeared to do no damage to the horror before me. I was going to die. This thing would be the last thing I ever saw and this pain would be the last thing I ever felt.
I scrambled to hide behind the tall brick tower in the centre of our arena. A shade followed me, having spawned through the rift. I kicked at it and rolled out of the way. It twisted and writhed towards me. Pulling on the Fade as much as I could muster, I shot a flurry of frost at it and ran to climb on a pile of rocks. Maybe I could gain some advantage over it. The demon paused then continued its path towards me. My breathing quickened, and I felt the panic flooding through my body. It came closer and closer until…
I sprang around it. It reached to hit my hurdling body and caught my torso with a sharp claw. My scream pierced the air and seemed to stagger it. Wild eyes watched as it circled around me. I fought to push myself off the ground but instead found myself slipping in the ash and rubble. I took a deep breath in, and a calm cool breath out. Maybe I could freeze this terror. I watched the frosty breath leave my mouth and travel to the tattered bottoms of the demon’s cloak. It was frozen, staring at me. I waste no time in pulling the dust around me into a storm and surrounding the demon in a fiery inferno. I took another deep breath in.
My strength filtered back through my aching limbs and magic danced on my skin again.
I breathed out a sigh of relief. One small battle won while the real warriors struggled to fight a much larger problem. I ran back to join the battle, now confident that I could assist in some way. They were struggling between the demons pouring through the rift and the pride demon before them. I joined Leliana on a small pile of rubble and shot at wraiths in the area.
The crystal in the rift had appeared again, my cue to disrupt it. I snaked through the demons and raised my hand again. The lyrium next to me glowed an angry red and I tried to heed Varric’s warning not to touch it. A shade smacked me off my feet, breaking the beam to the rift and throwing me against the lyrium itself. The breath was knocked from my lungs. Rolling to see my attacker, an arrow pierced its head. I threw my hand to the sky again and was uninterrupted as I contacted the rift.
The pride demon hunched over when the crystal exploded. Soldiers rushed to exploit its vulnerable state. I stood again in the disarray, as demons were left in a stupor and men rushed to slay them. My fireballs felt stronger from my lyrium-surrounded spot and I could take down several of the demons before they shuddered back to life.
I split my focus between several lesser demons crowding the area and tried to clear them from the other soldiers attacking the pride demon.
A ball of blue lightning struck the ground near me. The radiating heat blasted my face, but it couldn’t stop my rain of fire on the demon.
I gasped as demons came at me from every way. Another scream was beaten out of me as I was blasted against the corrupted lyrium at the base of the brick tower. I yelled as I dragged every ounce of power through my veins and shot out a rapture of fire. The wall traversed the field and consumed the demons in its path, ending by depriving the pride demon of its strength.
My vision blurred and I raised my hand for the final time toward the rift. The flare was white like the pain rushing through my spent body, and I had no power left in me to continue fighting. I grimaced in pain as the explosion of the rift sent shock-waves through me into the ground, and a wave of white was all I could see of it.
It was soft where I was. I felt myself drifting in the limbo between sleep and waking. The sound of a crowd chattering floated in through gaps in the wall slats. A cold draft forced me to blink my eyes open. There were barrels around the room and various supplies. A torch held a flame that cast shadows along a bookcase on the adjacent wall. The skins of animals were hung neatly as well and next to my resting place was a candle and an unlit lantern. My tired vision drifted to a tall elf who was gazing at the wall and holding a box as she moved towards me.
“Oh!” Her box dropped to the floor and I heard something inside shattering. I catapulted into a sitting position and rested my weight against my hands on the bed.
“I didn’t know you were awake,” she supplied, “I swear.”
“Don’t worry about it. I only-” I was interrupted as she dropped to the floor in a submissive position, not unlike a slave.
“I beg your forgiveness and your blessing. I am but a humble servant.” Her eyes wandered up to me as I swung my legs off the side of the bed, horrified. “You are back in Haven, my lady. They say you saved us. The Breach stopped growing, just like the mark on your hand.”
I looked down at my hand. It pulsed green to remind me that, yes, it was still here, and, yes, it was real.
“Shit,” I murmured under my breath, “Stand up.”
“It’s all anyone has talked about for the last three days.”
My gaze was as incredulous as my tone when it fell upon her again. Three days?
“I suppose I’m entitled to a trial now?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” her voice cracked as she stood from her position on the ground. “I’m certain Lady Cassandra would want to know you’ve wakened. She said, ‘At once.’”
“And where is she?”
The girl backed away, almost cowering, “In the chantry, with the Lord Chancellor. ‘At once,’ she said.”
She ran out of the door. I leaned back on my elbows and sighed loudly.
“Shit,” I said again. I stood up and glanced at the box she had dropped. There was nothing but dawn lotus and elfroot; ingredients to make potions. I suppose they wouldn’t use resources to keep me alive if they meant to kill me. I ran my hand through my hair and stiffly walked across the room. On the desk was a paper with chicken scratch writing on it. Surely it meant something to someone who could read.
There was a raven caged in the corner of the room. I huffed a laugh and kneeled to look at it.
“Bet you’d rather be outside, huh?” He tilted his head as his intelligent eyes rolled over me. Then he squawked.
I stood and stretched my stiff legs.
“Three days?” Maybe I was talking to the bird still. “It feels like three days.”
In a mini foyer of sorts was another desk with scribble-covered papers. One problem once I was outside, however: where was the Chantry? Maybe the bird knew.
I pushed the door open and a cold breeze greeted me. Two men stood on either side of a dirt path, and a crowd of people pushed together further down the path. To my right was another building.
I cautiously stepped towards the men, intent on following the path. People moved out of my way to let me through. I felt their eyes on me and heard their whispers.
“That’s her. That’s the Herald of Andraste.”
I was unnerved.
“They said when she came out of the Fade, Andraste herself was watching over her.”
My feet were cold.
“Hush. We shouldn’t disturb her.”
I was very disturbed.
“Why did Lady Cassandra have her in chains? I thought Seekers knew everything.”
A fair question.
“It’s complicated. We were all frightened after the explosion at the conclave.”
I swallowed and climbed snowy stairs.
“It isn’t complicated. Andraste herself blessed her!”
People blocked most paths.
“Blessings upon you, Herald of Andraste.”
Hopefully, this one led to the Chantry.
“That’s her. She stopped the Breach from getting any bigger.”
There were tents everywhere.
“I heard she was supposed to close it entirely.”
I came to a building that was castle-like in its majesty. Tall red flags blew atop it, and roofs formed peaks rimmed by the sky.
A group of women in red and white robes was gathered around the doors.
“Chancellor Roderick says that the Chantry wants nothing to do with us.”
“That isn’t Chancellor Roderick’s decision, Sister.”
“Uh,” I said stupidly, “Is this the Chantry?”
The priestesses heard me and nodded, some turned their noses up, but others smiled warmly.
“Lady Cassandra would like to see you,” one said curtly.
“She’s inside,” beamed another.
I smiled my thanks and pushed open heavy doors. The priestesses resumed their conversations.
Inside was a long hall with tall arched ceilings. It branched off to several doors. Uh oh, which one should I go through? Lucky for me there was yelling emanating from a door at the end of the hall. I probably wouldn’t think myself so lucky when I was in there, receiving the yelling. Along the way, candles littered the floor around thick stone columns. Large brazen torches cast a warm light which contrasted the dark shadows surrounding barrels and miscellaneous furniture.
“Have you gone completely mad?” A male’s voice said from behind the door. “She should be taken to Val Royeaux immediately, to be tried by whoever becomes Divine!”
“I do not believe she is guilty.” That was Cassandra’s voice responding. I crept closer to the door and pushed my ear against the hard wood.
“The prisoner failed, Seeker. The Breach is still in the sky. For all you know, she intended it this way.”
“I do not believe that.”
“That is not for you to decide. Your duty is to serve the Chantry.”
“My duty is to serve the duties on which the Chantry was founded, Chancellor. As is yours.”
The door suddenly swung open and I was left with nowhere to go but inside the room.
“Chain her,” yelled the Chancellor, “I want her prepared or travel to the capital for trial.”
“Disregard that,” Cassandra commanded, “and leave us.”
Leliana was next to her, arms crossed.
Two soldiers in Templar armour pounded their fist on their chest in salute and walked out briskly.
“You walk a dangerous line, Seeker.” The Chancellor glared at Cassandra.
“The Breach is stable,” She responded, “but it is still a threat. I will not ignore it.”
“So,” I began with a light huff, “I’m still a suspect? Even after what we just did?” I gestured with my arm. The movement reminded me that I was not fit enough to have tramped through the mountains as I did.
“You absolutely are.” His answer was curt, his eyes narrow. Maybe they would get stuck like that.
“No,” Cassandra interjected, “She is not.”
“Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave.” Leliana’s accented words cut through the tension between Cassandra and the Chancellor. “Someone Most Holy did not expect. Perhaps they died with the others- or have allies who yet live.”
The Chancellor reeled. “I am a suspect?”
“You. And many others.”
“But not the prisoner?”
“I heard the voices in the Temple. The Divine called to her for help.” I smiled at Cassandra’s testimony.
“So, her survival, that thing on her hand- all a coincidence?” He crossed his arms across his chest.
“Bad luck?” I looked between the people in the room. They disregarded my voice.
“Providence,” Cassandra began. “The Maker sent her to us in our darkest hour.”
“You can’t honestly believe I’m some kind of ‘chosen one.’” Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to say if she was using that as my defence. “I’m a slave.”
“We are all subject to the will of the Maker, whether we wish it or not. No matter what you are, or what you believe, you are exactly what we needed when we needed it.” She turned and walked across the room.
“The Breach remains,” Leliana restated calmly, “and your mark is still our only hope of closing it.”
“This is not for you to decide!” Chancellor Roderick sounded angrier like he had stored it in the brief seconds when I had spoken. Cassandra turned back and slammed a large book on the table dramatically. The low thump made my ears twitch.
“You know what this is, Chancellor?” Her voice was flat. “A writ from the Divine, granting us the authority to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn.” She backed him into a corner. “We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible, and we shall restore order. With or without your approval,” she added.
The Chancellor sneered at me, turned back to Cassandra, then turned and marched out of the room, slamming the door.
Leliana ran her hand along the seal of an eye on the cover of the book. “This is the Divine’s directive: rebuild the Inquisition of old, find those who will stand against the chaos.” She sighed in her explanation, “We aren’t ready. We have no leader, no numbers, and now no Chantry support.”
“But we have no choice: we must act now. With you at our side.” Cassandra nodded at me.
“And if I refuse?”
“You can go, if you wish,” Leliana admitted.
This noticeably appealed to me, because Cassandra took over now, “You should know that while some believe you are chosen, many still think you guilty. The Inquisition can only protect you if you are with us.”
“We can also help you,” Leliana returned.
“It will not be easy if you stay, but you cannot pretend this has not changed you.”
“When I woke up, I certainly didn’t picture this outcome,” I whispered.
“Neither did we.”
“Help us fix this before it’s too late.” Cassandra extended her hand to me. I took it, her glove overtaking my small hand completely. I nodded as we broke off.
After speaking in the chantry, Leliana had insisted I rest while she and Cassandra went over some business. Cassandra said to come back later to meet the others. I didn’t know what she meant, but I nodded and left anyways. I had talked to Varric, who asked if I was okay, then he took me to talk to Solas, who mentioned the Fade, and then we went to the tavern where he bought me a meal. He talked, and told stories about his friends from Kirkwall. He had known Hawke! I was amazed, having grown up on stories of him fighting Tevene slavers. I always wondered if one day he would come for my master. Perhaps Varric noticed it made me uncomfortable to discuss anything related to slavery because he told me I should rest after that.
The walk back to the small cabin was cold, but the snow wasn’t nearly as harsh as it had been on the mountain. My left side ached, and every step forced more strain through it. Maybe Varric wasn’t covering up when he said I needed rest because I probably looked like shit just opening the door.
I sat on the tall bed and looked across the room. The raven still sat in his cage. I lay back on the bed and closed my eyes. Maybe this shit I got myself into would work out. They weren’t going to kill me, and maybe my job would be something small. I could do small. I certainly couldn’t think of anywhere that I could go, maybe the wild elves would take me? But they’re savages who kill anything that isn’t their kind. Going back to Tevinter wasn’t an option, not if I had gotten out of there somehow. No, here was the only place I could be.
A knock on the door forced me out of my head. I sat up on the bed and opened my eyes. The raven was staring at me.
The door pushed open with a flurry of snow, and Cassandra stood in the doorway. She was holding some papers.
“About what you said in there,” she started as she walked into the room and pulled a chair next to the bed I sat on, “About you being a slave.”
I dropped my head, “Are you going to send me back?”
“No,” her answer was quick. She sounded completely averse to that idea, “We found these with you when you stepped from the Fade.”
She held out the papers to me. They were crumpled and singed in spots. I could only make out one word: Irian.
“You are free,” she said, “But you lied.”
“Your name. Perhaps because you were scared, but… you should tell us your real name.”
Irian. Of course. He was my master. Irian Amladaris. No wonder I hated the way that name sounded. But I couldn’t remember any other name, he had only called me ‘elf,’ or ‘girl,’ or ‘dog.’
“Is there a name on the papers?” I asked tentatively.
“You don’t remember your name?”
“No. Please, is there one on here.”
Cassandra’s face seemed to show some realization.
I held the papers out for her to see. I could feel tears bubbling up into my eyes, as my cheeks burned and my demeanour became desperate.
“No,” she said finally, handing the papers back, “Only a number.”
I let out a defeated huff of air and closed my eyes on tears. I crumpled the papers further as I clenched my hands. I squeezed my eyes shut tighter, then opened them and set those stupid papers ablaze, letting the ashes float to the floor until there was nothing left. Nothing left of my life in Tevinter. I could feel how uncomfortable I had made Cassandra.
She shifted in her chair and cleared her throat,
“Perhaps you could have one of my names? Maker knows I have too many.”
I looked up at her, she would give me a name?
“Perhaps you could be Portia?”
I couldn’t help the laugh that escaped me, and I threw my hands over my mouth to prevent more from rising. She looked at me sternly.
“Your name is Portia? You don’t look like a Portia.”
“And what do I look like?” she said, a small smile was twisting the corner of her mouth, I could see it.
I let myself giggle again, “I don’t know, you look like you could snap someone in half, ‘Portia’ doesn’t seem to fit someone like that.”
“What about ‘Calogera?’”
I threw my head back in laughter.
“Filomena?” she continued.
I laughed again, it felt nice, despite the stitches forming in my side and the pain it sent through my torso.
“You can’t just give your names away, Cassandra,” I giggled again, “Though I see why you would try.”
She smiled at me, no teeth or anything, more of a smirk really.
“What name do you think I would have? Who do I look like to you?”
Her face softened,
“You look like my mother.”
I opened my mouth in surprise, “Your mother? Oh, Cassie, if your mother looks like me, she’s got some explaining to do.” I giggled again.
“Not like that,” She said, “It’s the way you throw your head back when you laugh, and the way you smile.”
“Oh,” I said pushing back on my palms.
“She always called me ‘Cassie.’”
She whispered it though, so I wasn’t sure I was supposed to hear it.
“Does it bother you? Should I stop?”
She shook her head, “No, it is a welcome relief from ‘Lady Cassandra’ and ‘Seeker Pentaghast.”
“If you don’t mind me asking,” I approached this carefully, “What was your mother’s name?”
“It’s pretty.” I smiled at her again, “But I don’t think I could take her name.”
“No,” Cassandra said again, “I think it would encourage you to scold me.”
I laughed again, but lightly, “Is that a joke?”
Her eyes met mine, and she shrugged. Of all the things this proud warrior would do, I never expected a shrug!
“Didn’t you ever think of a name?” She asked.
I pursed my lips in thought,
“No, but I had a friend named ‘Rosalind.’ She was my mentor for magic, she tried to help me be good enough to be promoted to ‘Liberati.’ I don’t know what happened to her. I think she left Tevinter altogether. Maybe I could borrow her name? She always went by ‘Rose,’ I thought it was pretty… But I couldn’t take her name either, it wouldn’t be right. I should just stick with Irian.”
Cassandra nodded, “She was a close friend then?”
I shook my head yes, “Maybe my next friend will be named Portia, Calogera, and Filamena?”
“I would like that,” Cassandra said, then stood up, “I brought some clothes so you could change out of your armour.”
I looked down at myself, the blue cloth was torn and still had some traces of blood on it. I must look worse for having slept in it for the past three days.
“It was nothing,” she blushed? “I could hardly find anything that would fit you anyways.” Then she turned abruptly and left the cabin.
I peeled my thin armour from my body and slid into the clothes she had brought. I immediately felt warmer in the thick cloth than in the breezy Tevene armour I had somehow found myself in. I lay back on the bed again and kicked the covers back for me to slide under. This Inquisition thing didn’t seem too bad so far.
Ah-ha! Some actual original content! Don't get too comfortable with it though. Also, Cassandra is kind of hard for me to write so I hope she isn't completely out of character.